APA and MLA are two of the most commonly used academic style and citation systems – and depending on your discipline, it’s likely that you’ll be called on to use at least one of them at some point in your scholarly career, possibly even for your dissertation. Both of these styles use what are called “in-text citations” to document sources.

In-Text Citations and Your Dissertation

In-text citations are so called because of where you put them: right in the body of your text. This differentiates them from footnotes, which are used to cite sources in other citation systems – namely Chicago and Turabian style. In-text citations typically appear at the end of a sentence, in parentheses. You might also see them referred to as “parenthetical” citations.

If you’re asked to use APA orMLA style for your dissertation, you need to know how to create in-text citations. They’re formatted differently in APA and MLA style, but luckily, they’re not hard to learn.

APA-Style In-Text Citations

In-text citations in APA Style are constructed using a system called author-date. As that name implies, APA-style in-text citations need to include the name of the author of the work that you are referencing and the date in which it was published. In cases where you use a direct quotation from a work, you will typically include the page number where the quotation in question can be found.

The way that you construct an APA-style in-text citation can differ, depending on circumstances.

If you mention the author’s name in your text, you do not need to include it in your parenthetical citation. Your citation will appear immediately following the author’s name. It would look something like this: In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein (1937) tells of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.

If you don’t mention the author’s name in your text, you do need to include it in the citation. Separate the author name and the date with a comma, like this: Bilbo Baggins found a magical ring (Tolkein, 1937).

If you include a direct quote from a source, you should include the page number. It would look like this: “The wind broke up the grey clouds, and a wandering moon appeared above the hills” (Tolkein, 1937, p. 30). The author’s name, the date, and the page number are all separated by commas.

In each case, if the citation comes at the end of a sentence, the period appears after the closing parenthesis.

MLA-Style In-Text Citations

In-text citations in MLA Style use the author-page system, rather than author-date.

For a typical MLA-style in-text citation, you’ll give the author’s name followed by the page number, like so: “The wind broke up the grey clouds, and a wandering moon appeared above the hills” (Tolkein 30).

If you mention the author’s name in the text, no need to include it in your citation. For example: Tolkein evocatively described the clouds and moon (30).

Note what’s different from an APA-style in-text citation: there is no comma separating the author name from the page number, and the year is not included.

These examples show the basic structure of an in-text citation in MLA or APA style. There are variations these work – for instance, when you cite multiple works by the same author, works without page numbers, etc. But we’ll leave that to a future post!

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